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What is the difference between a nominal account and a real account?

Harold Averkamp, CPA, MBA

Definition of Nominal Account

The balance in a nominal account is closed at the end of the accounting year. As a result, a nominal account begins each accounting year with a zero balance. Since the balance does not carry forward to the next accounting year, a nominal account is also referred to as a temporary account.

Examples of Nominal Accounts

The nominal accounts are almost always the income statement accounts such as the accounts for recording revenues, expenses, gains, and losses. When the income statement accounts are closed at the end of the accounting year, the net amount will ultimately end up in a balance sheet equity account such as the proprietor’s capital account or the corporation’s retained earnings account.

Definition of Real Account

The balance in a real account is not closed at the end of the accounting year. As a result, a real account begins each accounting year with its balance from the end of the previous year. Because the end-of-the-year balance is carried forward to the next accounting year, a real account is also known as a permanent account.

Examples of Real Accounts

The real accounts are the balance sheet accounts such as the accounts for recording assets, liabilities, and the owner’s (or stockholders’) equity. However, the sole proprietor’s drawing account, which is reported on the balance sheet during the year, is a temporary account because it is closed directly to the owner’s capital account at the end of the year.

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About the Author

Harold Averkamp

For the past 52 years, Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has
worked as an accounting supervisor, manager, consultant, university instructor, and innovator in teaching accounting online. He is the sole author of all the materials on

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